- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 1, 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) - A Senate confirmation vote on President Barack Obama’s choice to be the next U.S. ambassador to Iraq will likely be delayed due objections of at least one lawmaker, congressional aides said Wednesday.

The Obama administration had hoped the Senate would vote on Christopher Hill’s nomination to the critical post this week along with several other ambassadorial appointments, but three aides familiar with the matter said it was now unlikely action on Hill would occur before the Senate goes into recess Friday.

The aides spoke on condition of anonymity because sensitive negotiations over Hill’s nomination are still ongoing.

They said votes still were expected by Thursday on six other nominees who, like Hill, won Senate Foreign Relations Committee approval on Tuesday. The others, including Obama’s choice for ambassador to Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry, were expected to receive unanimous consent from the Senate this week, the aides said.

But the nomination of Hill, whose lack of diplomatic experience in the Middle East led some Republicans to question his suitability for the Baghdad post, has been opposed by Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., who accuses the veteran diplomat of misleading him when he served as the Bush administration’s chief negotiator with North Korea.

Any senator can place an anonymous hold on a presidential nomination and block the process, but it was not clear on Wednesday if Brownback had done so in Hill’s case. Brownback’s office did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment.

One congressional aide said Brownback had in fact placed a hold on Hill but the senator was expected to lift it after negotiations with the Obama administration and Senate leaders in which they agreed to hold four hours of debate on the nomination and then a vote in which Hill was expected to be overwhelmingly approved.

The aides said allowing such a debate would make it nearly impossible for the Senate, which is wrapped up in budget matters, to act on Hill’s nomination before the recess.



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